What comes to mind when you think of “corporate America”? Most likely, the following images pop up in your head: suits, briefcases, handshakes and all sorts of formalities. But you know what? This is no longer your father’s work environment. Today’s cutting edge companies are marked by jeans, sweatshirts, headphones, lounges and happy hours galore. This all sounds perfect, right? Break down stuffy barriers and unleash the creative juice (and alcohol).
I spent the last year in one of these companies. We work hard but play harder. Complete with an office dog and a ping pong room, sometimes the job feels more like a summer camp than a place of work. Mostly people under the age of 30, employees here are often friends, roommates and other significant people.
Recently, during a corporate happy hour, I was talking to a colleague while slightly intoxicated. We started talking about making friends outside of work, and I kept telling him that I considered him a “half-friend.” If that wasn’t an embarrassing enough comment, I went on to go into detail about how boundaries exist, about things I would never do with co-workers that I would do with my “true friends”.
Would I have had the same conversation sober? Of course not. Do I support what I said? 100%. If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would not tell him this. It probably falls into the category of “things people think to themselves but never say out loud.” The disadvantage of such an office environment is that the line between friend and colleague is sometimes blurred. While we can spend our working hours in comfortable clothes and enjoy a day of WFH from time to time, the yuppie generation faces an entirely different set of challenges in the workplace. It’s too hard trying to remember that our colleagues are the people you interact with professionally, and as fun or friendly as they are, they’re not like your other friends. The worst thing that can happen to your “real friends” is that your embarrassing texts can end up on TFLN or maybe even a few less flattering photos on facebook. Do the same tricks in front of colleagues? It could cost you your next promotion or even your job.
So the next time you find yourself in company happy hour, before you drink your third (or fourth) gin and tonic, remember to wait a bit. No matter how laid-back your company may seem, you still need to maintain some sort of security. At least half.
Author: Randy Charles is a Web Marketing Analyst at TIG Global, an interactive marketing company specializing in the hospitality industry based in Washington DC.